Friday, July 25, 2008

Daisy Update

Miss Daisy spent the time I was away at the vet. He took the opportunity to do new blood tests and gave her a good report for the time being. She's been quite spry and active since our return home.

She's also been copy editing my work of late. She's seen here questioning a plot point in one of my comic scripts.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Residency Reflections

Well, I'm back from my first residency at Goddard College's MFA program, a week on the peninsula in Port Townsend, WA. That's why I was on the flight mentioned in my previous post.

I was just about there:

View Larger Map

It was a great setting, and feels like a good decision. There's talk of Goddard being transformative, and I'm hopeful. I don't think I have a goal beyond that right now. I don't think I need one.

It was an intense week, sleeping little, attending workshops with a fervor I haven't in years, and spending time in the company of a diverse group of writers, poets, playwrites and other artists working in many styles, all at various stages of their creative experience.

That was perhaps the most fabulous part, meeting my new peeps, sharing bland meals and conversation that was anything but. I probably even gushed a little once I crept from my shell.

My biggest problem was scoring coffee for the pot in my room, an old non-commissioned officer's cabin at Fort Worden, the site where they filmed An Officer and a Gentleman. I think I traipsed across the territory where Lou Gossett put Richard Gere through his paces on the way to poetry readings and to tug one slim poem from my notebook to share. Maybe more next time. Maybe I'll write more poetry, an unexpected by-product.

The shop on the fort grounds didn't seem to have an adequate supply for their own needs, so they sold me take-out-soup containers full to get me by a few days at a time since I was waking up on central time, and I need a cup at my side for early a.m. writing.

It's a little daunting, the tasks at hand, the reading, the writing requirements, the commitment, but time spent to a purpose is more worthwhile than time spent and it is all about the journey, right?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Continental Airlines Experiences: Or How I Came to Get a Lecture on Beverage Service Procedures

(I should start by saying I had a very nice conversation with a very nice man at Continental Airlines Customer Care center last night. He was courteous, professional and assured me Continental is working to make sure all customers have a positive experience. He outlined procedures they follow for unfortunate situations and thanked me for letting them know about my experience. Please proceed now with the What Happened Was...)

I know the airways are a stressful place these days, and I know flight attendants have been empowered to deal with unruly customers with a firm hand, but I didn't really expect an intense lecture in how beverage service is conducted when I asked if I might have a tasty beverage to wash down my tasty micro-char-grilled cheeseburger on my recent flight. No one expects the Spanish Inquisition.

I'd really planned on getting a chunk read on a great new book I found, The Open Curtain by Brian Evenson, but figured I'd really delve into it after lunch. Didn't realize I wouldn't be in the mood after lunch.

So the flight attendant with the burgers passed by, slipped me a burger and a salad and moved on. I waited a while, thinking I might get drink and meal in some proximity. But beverage service takes longer than tossing out tasty micro-char-grilled cheeseburgers, so I decided to go on with the eating.

I know, I know, I'm lucky I was getting a meal at all, but I did pay $50 more for three pounds of extra weight in my luggage, so we were probably square.

Drink Up
So anyway, the beverage cart moves along the aisle and the flight attendant on one end of the cart took the orders for the row across from me and then the cart rolled past and I thought they might be taking orders behind me. So passengers in front of me, passengers to the left of me, passengers possibly behind me all seemed to be getting their tasty beverages.

I looked back to see if they might have overlooked me. I'm quiet and retiring. It happens.

"There's a man looking at your tush," said the flight attendant at the far end of the drink cart.

My boss is the customer service expert, but I perceive that usually in those matters employees are encouraged to say things such as: "There's a passenger looking back like he might want something." But you roll with what you get.

The flight attendant nearest me asked if I needed anything.

"I was just wondering if you had forgotten our row," I said. I was on the aisle. I appointed myself spokesman.

"I was waiting on THAT row," the flight attendant informed me, tersely indicating the row across from me.

I had noticed that fact. They were sipping sodas. It actually played a role in the development of the hypothesis that I might have been forgotten.

"I wasn't trying to be difficult," I said calmly. I think they may be authorized to taser you if you talk back these days.

The flight attendant proceeded to inform me about beverage dispersal procedures. In detail. I didn't really need detail in an emphatic voice.

"If I had been behind you, THAT would have meant I'd forgotten you," she concluded Again with the terse and an implied, "Are you happy now!?"

Please reference the other attendant's comment above. She WAS behind me when I looked back prompting the indelicate remark.

"Now what would you like?"

This moment to be on another airline, I thought, as I very likely will be on my next flight.

"A Sprite."

I think there was a little more lecture involved because she worked back to the: "Now you've made me forget what you wanted."

The only things I said in the whole exchange was "Did you miss our row?" and "I wasn't trying to be difficult." Oh and: "A Sprite." Didn't know I was practicing the power to cloud anyone's minds with such invocations.

I never raised my voice. I was not unduly demanding. I just asked a question of a representative of the service and hospitality industry on a full but, at least from what I saw, calm flight.

"A Sprite," I repeated. She gave it to me.

I declined all other drink offers for the remainder of the flight, read a little of my book and soothed out to the music of Mediaeval Baebes on my iPod.

Can I Get Some Service Recovery Here?
I kind of waited around for the service recovery. In customer service--per my boss who is Disney Institute trained--that's what you practice when there's been a customer who's been mistreated. Neither the flight attendant who was strident nor the other flight attendant, who should have been close enough to hear the redressing, stopped to say anything like "Sorry, we're having a busy day" or anything like it.

The only other contact came when Christine asked for our arrival gate because we were facing a tight connection. We decided she should ask since I hadn't exactly established a rapport. She was sitting behind me, so they didn't really know we were together.

The flight attendant didn't offer to check. She just said: "The pilot will make that announcement 20 minutes before landing."

He didn't, incidentally. The flight attendant Christine had spoken with didn't follow up.

The flight attendant who had lectured me didn't say good bye when I passed her on the way out.

So it goes. The ground crew in Houston was stellar in helping us get to our tight connection at least, with radios buzzing between shuttle drivers and gate attendants to make sure we weren't left behind. Kudos to them.

As I mentioned in the foreword, the customer service guy I spoke to later on the phone assured me that's not the kind of service Continental wants to provide and that they have procedures.

Work hard, fly right.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

I'm Being Followed By Consonants

I signed up for Twitter not long ago as the posts at the right may have hinted. It's a quick way to fire out blog notes from just about anywhere, so it's handy in hectic times like these.

It's also a nifty experiment in social media, which is all the rage in the web marketing world since that's where people are.

I should say it's all the rage in the well-informed web marketer world.

It's not so much the rage in the uninformed and crabby, guy-who-has-to-search-his-desk -drawer-for-his-web password world, but that's another story of web monkey life.

Anyway, I signed up for Twitter. Cliff's there and active as well as a few other people I know, and you can even follow a Twitter debate between McCain and Obama surrogates if you choose.

But what I'm not sure about are a couple of recent people who have signed on to follow me.

Following on Twitter means people who are following you can see the micro posts you enter along with the posts from other people they're "following" aka reading. It mimics the status updates you can do on Facebook.

When I log on for example, I see Cliff's entries, chronologically interspersed with entries from other people I'm following.

I'm not sure why the Twitter members with rows of consonants instead of names have their eye on me but two have signed on in recent days.

I understand on My Space why I get spam friend requests from Miffy and Tiffany periodically. They have webcams and would like me to pay per view.

I don't quite know the gain of what may be some kind of weird reverse spam.

Are these mysterious consonat followers gathering marketing data when I drop factoids such as: "bought The Color of Blood by Declan Hughes on a Fourth of July book shopping excursion?"

Or is there something more sinister? Are those alien names, those Be1pbuipbuis and their ilk?

If I should disappear, check Twitter for my last known whereabouts, oh and you can look in Second Life somewhere around the Elbow Room, but I haven't been there in a while.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Sailing Out of Safe Harbor

Steve, who blew the continent a few years ago in what had to be a big sail out of safe harbor, noted an old saying the other day.

Ships are safe in the harbor, but that's not what ships are for.

Interestingly Christine was perusing the lyrics of the Indigo Girls "Closer I Get to Fine" the other day and found the song includes the line:

"I sailed my ship of safety 'til I sank it."

Interesting thoughts both.

Keep moving.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Dial M for Monty

Christine thinks Monty, the senior tomcat, may be trying to kill her.

Unfortunately Christine has the straight man role in our household, straight man in the comedy team sense.

She's the George Burns to my Gracie, Martin to my Lewis, Hardy by my Stan Laurel, though I must clarify that I have the weight advantage.

There's been a series of unfortunate events since we've been married that cement the role.

For example, Christine's relatives were coming to visit one Sunday a.m. I heard the shower come on in the bathroom. It was long after we were dressed and ready for visitors.

"I wonder why she's turning the shower on?" I asked myself.

A few moments later a drenched Christine came into the room with a simmering expression and clenched fists. "You didn't push down the shower plunger after you finished. I was just going to rinse out the drain."

There have been many incidents like that, though I'm usually responsible.

The other night Monty was really the culprit. He likes ice water. I don't know at what point we discovered this, probably when he was somewhere he wasn't supposed to be, sticking his nose into one of our glasses.

From to time to time, we drop ice cubes into an old plastic drinking glass for him, or we just deposit ice in his water bowl.

He must think the little half-moon-shaped slivers from the ice maker are fish or something, because he'll sit beside his bowl, pawing at them. Sometimes he drags the bowl around the kitchen in the process.

The other night he dragged it around a while, sloshing out some water, and while I was at the computer, busily typing away I heard something like:


Christine has a habit of saying things like: "OH, NO!" from the other end of the house.

I call out: "Everything all right?" to a response of dead silence, so that I have to get up and go see what the "oh no" was about. Usually it's something like the leftover fruit salad's gone bad.

Friday I said: "Everything all right" and got no response, so I got up and walked through the den into the kitchen.

Christine had been the source of the "Ahhhhh," SWOOOOOSHH. THUD, having slipped in the sloshed-over water Monty had left behind when he abandoned his water bowl and went to sleep on the sofa.

"Are you OK?" I asked.

"That cat is going to be the death of me," Christine said, having picked herself up and determined she had no broken bones.

Now she has an eye on him, Grace Kelly to Monty's Ray Milland. That certainly puts a new wrinkle on things, but if this little game of cat ;-) and mouse goes on, at least it will keep them from turning on me.
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